By Fatima Sanda Usara
For his inventiveness, for his focus, for tightening the purse, for his insistence on due process, the NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, became their nightmare. He bites harder notwithstanding their debasing sentiments aimed at smothering his concentration. He persists in doing the needful for the commission, its staff, the pilgrims, stakeholders and extensively, for the country.
The drama surrounding constant attacks on Barrister Mukhtar’s personality conjures up the image of Lilliputians shooting up their tiny arrows against the giant Lemuel Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s classic satire, Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver seldom talks but deeply reflects, he depicts courage, bravery in taking risks, a smart and creative person who succeeded where others failed. Hundreds of small beings surrounded the gigantic Gulliver, shooting him with their arrows; arrows that are equivalent to needles on his skin. Tied with ropes ironically equivalent to hair strands, Gulliver could not be stopped.
Like Gulliver, multitudes of Lilliputians of our time have for several years been converging with their arrows, shooting at the NAHCON stalwart, but the arrows descend upon his image like needles upon the skin of Gulliver. Yes, they may hurt, but only skin deep. And that is why his focus remains the same.
From radio-sponsored programs in Idon Mikiya, Brekete Family, hundreds of faceless posts in the social media and recently an article in Nigerian Tribune, the Lilliputians are yet to exhaust the ploys in their pools. A few months back, an insider revealed that over one hundred persons are jostling for Abdullahi Mukhtar’s chair. And one can rest assured that among them are those willing to fight dirty to pluck him out of Hajj Commission just to mount the leadership of the establishment, for God knows why.
Desperation can lead to confusion and temporary loss of simple rationality. The latest twist by these Lilliputians is a claim that Mukhtar is usurping the Hajj Commission’s Chairmanship position, staying on and refusing to vacate his seat after the expiry of his tenure in May 24th 2019. After they were awakened from their fantasy with a legal proof of Mukhtar’s tenure extension on acting capacity, they turned to another facade, that the letter is a fake. After finding out that this lie does not sink, they coined another plot. This time, the gist is that the President was misled into believing that the Chairman has another tenure whereas both chances have expired. Besides, while other board members have since received their tenure extension letters, some commissioners were exempted unjustly. And this too is the machination of the man they love to hate. It is amazing that some individuals sincerely believe the media propaganda that the presidency’s silence is an attestation of foolery.
Is it not ridiculous that even after these concerned Nigerians exposed Mr Mukhtar’s forgery, the whole presidency, the legislative arm of government and other law enforcement agencies remain mute? Do they not decipher their futile fight against a statute operative who has won the confidence of Nigeria’s leadership? Perhaps they believe Barrister Mukhtar jazzed up everyone through a strong spell and only they are blessed to have decoded the fake letter and the plot in disallowing some persons to proceed as Commissioners? Perhaps the nameless writers behind these accusations are people believed to be intelligent, yet allow themselves to be pulled into a meaningless mesh of absurdities orchestrated by self-interested NAHCON job seekers.
Recall the changing economic and political realities the country is transiting, none of these affected Mr Mukhtar’s vision for the commission. Instead, the NAHCON Chairman dauntlessly digs deeper in search of shock absorbent, safety plans that will sustain the commission even if the government washes its hands completely off funding of religious activities in the country. And to the chagrin of those whose torchlight is only to project his failure, NAHCON’s results from impregnable reforms boldly stared back at them. Today, NAHCON under Barrister Mukhtar Muhammad is driving infrastructural development from all over Hajj camps in the country, with revenue generation intent. This is besides the comfort of pilgrims, which is the other reason for erecting the buildings. In Abuja, a clinic, event centre are both nearing completion to serve the local community, generate income for the commission, serve pilgrims during Hajj seasons and open up employment opportunities to qualified persons. In Kano, the Chairman recently visited the commission’s clinic under construction as well as the 500-bed hotel site designed for the same reasons as earlier stated. Hopefully, Hajj commission will soon be standing on its feet to carry on with a good job in a building owned by it through its own internally generated revenue. A building that will, in turn, generate revenue to the commission through leasing of surplus offices.
Mr Abdullahi Mukhtar has spearheaded several policy reforms that would change the face of NAHCON forever. Indeed, with Nigeria’s customary brand of political rivalry, one can be sure that only a few people out of the said hundreds jostling for his seat will be happy he attained these feats. Instead, many will wish to belittle his achievements to rubbish his attainment, such that by the time they might have luckily rough ridden their way to saddle the NAHCON leadership, they would have succeeded in lowering the bar for themselves.
Unfortunately for them, many pilgrims and stakeholders will testify to the positive changes in Hajj operations in Nigeria. Impressively, financial racketeers (home and away) have been tamed; pilgrims’ abandonments at the airports would only be cited in History henceforth, Nigerian pilgrims hitherto being accommodated in scattered shanties uphill the deserts of Saudi Arabia is no longer practicable with the kinds of checks put in place by the Mukhtar administration. The types of transparency measures lined out for staff and stakeholders to follow are those that will make a desperate Lilliputian begin to fly the ethnicity flag in a religious institution.
Fortunately, NACON Chairman has not neglected staff welfare either, why would they then bicker over an imaginary ethnicity palaver when doing so would not bring food to their tables? He praises those who put their best in the discharge of their duties no matter the region where the personnel comes from. Staff training is paramount in his agenda and today, NAHCON can boast of staff with creativity that keeps deploying their specialities and making pilgrims’ stay in Saudi Arabia a memorable one. Staff are being carried along in decisions that affect them, so where would wrangling come from but for human nature?
In one of his drives for justice to the commission, NAHCON Chairman had in the past gone to court in Saudi Arabia to seek an injunction for remittance of hotel rental charges to NAHCON and the commission won. The money accrued was declared to government and its expenditure was also transparently declared. Which sensible leader who claims to be fighting an endemic corruption will be in a hurry to dump such an appointee? Presently, most of the syndicates feeding fat on Nigerian pilgrims and giving them bad names have gone into oblivion, yet maybe those throwing salvos at the commission’s leadership so the business may return. However, with how Nigerian pilgrims are now being respected and given befitting welcome by their Saudi Arabian hosts, may their faces never appear in the Hajj industry again.
This writer recollects that during the last official working visit to Saudi Arabia for signing of 2019 Hajj agreements, the NAHCON Chairman repeatedly made some kind of valedictory remarks to different organs of Hajj operatives in the Kingdom declaring that for some of them, this may be the last time they will be heading this team as their tenure will soon be ending. Somehow, anywhere he made this declaration, the hosts replied with such statements like God willing you shall be back to continue with the great job you have started or with the response that God will not make that change possible because there is no need for it for now. Some replied confidently that they are looking forward to working with him, in sha Allah.
Now God has answered. Feel free to continue fighting God’s resolve.
Usara is with Public Affairs Unit, NAHCON